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Belle & Sebastian

A band that takes its name from a French children's television series about a boy and his dog would almost have to be precious, and to be sure, Belle & Sebastian are precious. But precious can be a damning word, and Belle & Sebastian don't have the negative qualities that the word connotes: they are private but not insular, pretty but not wimpy; they make gorgeous, delicate melodies sound full-bodied. Led by guitarist/vocalist Stuart Murdoch, the seven-piece band has an intimate, majestic sound that is equal parts folk-rock and '60s pop, but Murdoch's gift, not just for whimsy and surrealism, but also for odd, unsettling lyrical detail, keeps the songs grounded in a tangible reality.

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Belle & Sebastian released their first two albums in 1996 at the peak of the chamber pop movement. At first, some critics in Britain's music weeklies tied the band into the subgenre, yet the group was too pretty, too delicate, to bear that label. Through their first two years of public existence, the band shielded their personalities, submitting publicity photos featuring a girl that wasn't in the band and reluctantly posing for photo shoots. Furthermore, they performed in odd venues, playing not only the standard coffee houses and cafes, but also homes, church halls, and libraries.

The idiosyncratic approach to building their career isn't surprising given Murdoch's approach toward starting a band. A longtime fan of Felt, Murdoch left Glasgow for London in the early '90s in hopes of finding the group's leader, Lawrence Hayward, but he never found his idol. Upon his return to Glasgow, he enrolled in university and began writing songs and short stories. While at school, he took a music business course where he decided to form a band and release a record for his final project (he had tried to form a band before with no success). For the project, he assembled the seven-piece Belle & Sebastian, featuring himself on guitar and vocals, and choosing and recruiting members by instinct in a local all-night cafe in late 1995. He eventually found Sarah Martin (violin), Stevie Jackson (guitar), Chris Geddes (keyboards), Stuart David (bass), Richard Colburn (drums), and Isobel Campbell (cello). All seven members were college students, and all agreed that the idea behind the band was to stay on a small scale, to keep it as a project and not let the band run their lives; they even assumed they would release two albums and break up.

In May of 1996, Belle & Sebastian self-released their debut album, Tigermilk, on Electric Honey Records. Only 1,000 copies of the album, which was only pressed on vinyl, were released, but it unexpectedly became a sensation, earning terrific word of mouth throughout England. As a result, the band became slightly more than a school project -- it became an actual band. If You're Feeling Sinister, released on the independent Jeepster label, followed in November of 1996. By the time the album was released in America on the EMI subsidiary the Enclave, it had earned considerable critical acclaim in the U.K. -- not only from music weeklies, but from newspapers like The Sunday Times and magazines like The Face -- and a large cult following; by some accounts, Tigermilk was being sold for as much as 75 pounds. Over the course of 1997, word of mouth continued to grow in America, even as the band pulled out of an American tour because the Enclave went bankrupt and closed.

As the band's cult continued to build in 1997, Belle & Sebastian released three EPs -- Dog on Wheels (May), Lazy Line Painter Jane (July), and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light (October). Each subsequent EP placed higher on the indie charts and received much critical acclaim. By the end of the year, the group finalized an American deal with Matador Records, issuing The Boy with the Arab Strap in September 1998. The following year saw the eagerly anticipated, wide re-release of Tigermilk, the album that started it all. Following completion of 2000's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, Stuart David left Belle & Sebastian to focus full-time on his solo project, Looper. In 2001, the group released two EPs -- Jonathan David and I'm Waking Up to Us -- and recorded the soundtrack for Todd Solondz's film Storytelling. Just before the soundtrack's release in spring 2002, Belle & Sebastian embarked on a comprehensive tour of the United States and Canada before returning to Europe for the summer festival season. Midway through the tour, Isobel Campbell left the band, citing the usual differences.

Another major change that soon took place was the band leaving Jeepster and Matador to sign with Rough Trade, with their next record, late 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, produced by the inimitable Trevor Horn (who also produced Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Yes, and scores of others). The record spawned the brilliant "Step Into My Office" and "I'm a Cuckoo" singles, the latter of which was the group's biggest U.K. hit, reaching number 14 in early 2004. After a long worldwide tour that found Belle & Sebastian reaching new levels of success, they retired to Scotland and began preparing for the recording of their fifth album. The Life Pursuit was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Tony Hoffer and was released in 2006 by Rough Trade in the U.K. The band were back with Matador in the U.S.

After a tour that included a sold-out show at the Hollywood Bowl, the band took a well-deserved break. Apart from the release of The BBC Sessions (by Matador and Jeepster) in 2008, no Belle & Sebastian records were released until 2010. During the hiatus, Murdoch spent time on his God Help the Girl project (which included much of the band as well), and Jackson and Kildea toured and recorded with the legendary Scottish indie pop band the Vaselines, who had re-formed in 2009. After spending the early part of 2010 recording with Tony Hoffer, the group released Belle & Sebastian Write About Love on October 12 of 2010.

Write About Love performed well -- it peaked at eight on the U.K. charts and at 15 on Billboard in the U.S. -- and after its release, the band entered a quiet period. They re-emerged in 2013, touring the U.S. prior to the August release of The Third Eye Centre, a collection of B-sides and non-LP tracks released between 2006 and 2010. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: I'm Waking Up To Us

Comments

amye45
smile cry indeed
Who cares about Belle & Sebastian, I came to this band's comments to find out more about BLUDOS.COM
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If you wish to add some extra money to you wallet go to BLUDOS.COM They offer really easy free online jobs where you can make a few extra hundred dollas a week !
amynicolle95
I'm seeing them in concert this weekend in Salt Lake!
rjholla4g4
My love of The Velvet Underground led me to Belle and Sebastian. Luckily I got to see them in Lawrence, Ks. in 2002, I think.
analiagrubb3
They make me happy when I am horribly depressed. I smile crying when I listen to them.
This song reminds me of cats wearing sweaters.
pmatteucci
I've loved this band since I first heard them in 1998, heard them again in 2011 in Sydney in a tiny, dark venue and fell in love with them all over again. It was so intimate and personal, the stage was so low and there were so few tickets available (maybe 200). Probably the best gig of my life :)
I grew up in the 60's, and they remind me very much of the bands of that era.
For the longest time I thought Belle and Sebastian were an 80s glam rock band lol. Their music is very nice.
bbhulse1
Belle and Sebastian is the only band that matters, period.
The album cover isn't offensive, it's just uhh...inappr o p r i a t e . (Tigermilk)
named after sebastian from the series
I like most of what I heard. Sometimes, the lyrics are so stupid it distracts from the sound (as noted by the Judy and the Dream of Horses comment from Seamus Walsh below), but overall pretty good.
i serisouly dont understand why the cover would in any way be offensive.
Offensive commentator below. Please delete him.
bromide01
Offensive album cover. Pandora please delete.
wenberep is so precious
Love it
wenberep
I had drinks with Belle once. She was nice. She sang me a song and we talked about jewish politics.
delicate is an appropriate description of this artist imo. Like going through family antiques on a rainy day with sunshine streaming through the window.
Judy and the Dream of Horses is the worst song I have ever heard. It sounds like a Jimmy Fallon joke song.
bromide01
I am sadly interested maybe.
beautifully sad
ladyspineret t e _
I am interested
THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL! it made me cey within the first 20 seconds.
I'm just really discovering Belle and Sebastian. I've known they've been around and heard a thing or two at a distance, but these guys are good. I really like them and hope to immerse myself.
theweez09
This band is meant to be enjoyed out in the open air. I was fortunate enought to see them twice in the last month and it was absolutley lovely- to say the least. If you are given the opportunity to see them, take it-and a picnic basket too.
Just saw them Monday night in Chicago at the Chicago Theatre, really good show and 4 or 5 songs of the new album as well - they can be a little hit and miss live, so it was great to see one where they were really on.
while trying to think of good recomendatio n s i realized you really can't go wrong with any of there music. my favorite album is dear catastrophe waitress but i love all of there stuff. the boy with the arab strap is another really good album.
ccurtin8
Damn great show last night at the water front in Williamsburg Brooklyn. If they play your town go see them! They played Piazza New York Catcher last night! Check out Suki in the grave yard(life persuit) and the entire alblum if your feeling sinister.
I just recently discovered Belle & Sebastian. I really like the album "The Life Persuit" which I believe is their most recent record.
I'm not sure how but I missed these guys across the years and have never heard of them before today. I'm listening to Piazza, New York Catcher right now and it's really hitting home for me, reminds me of a lot of 60's folk music I listened to on record when I was just a wee lad. Would anyone care to recommend some common liked hits from them for me?
again i adore
amhurych
To suushi7... if you don't like them why are you listening and/or commenting on them? Just a question.
One of my all time favorite bands is B & S... I am pretty sure my life would be much different had I not discovered their music way back in 1997. Now... I just wish I could get my wife to like them.... hmmm...
I'vde never heard them before; though I've heard alot about them. Thumbs up, this stuff is good.
mumtaz.hasee b
I wont be the person i am if it hadn't been for Stewart Murdoch
i really like them, if you dont, something very wrong is going on inside your head :)
suushi7
god i can't stand them.
i want them to make another record. if they break up i will be very sad. im not done with them yet.
My God they bring me back to my college days...
107565037
When I first heard their kind of calm yet stylistic pop rock, I immediately placed them alongside the Hollies, the Beatles, and the Zombies as a classic '60s band. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they're a late-90s band.

Thank you Pandora, for helping me find these guys. I love it.
hmmm. i just realized that belle and sebastian are on the juno soundtrack.
Mmmm it will take some time for this band to catch on, kinda like weird - it is strange at first but after sometime it works out - people are people and all diverse and weird in our own ways.
bethmclizard 6
B&S always get a "thumbs down" from me - I just don't get those guys.
tpmarczak
Stuart just put out a new album, "God Help the Girl." Check it out.
chris.patena u d e
this is rather dainty and cute. It is music for music lovers.
I'm so upset, I love Belle and Sebastian so much, yet they are so private and are now on hiatus. I want to be at their future concerts so much! Well, at lest the good thing is that they perform at odd venues, which would mean cheap tickets, which is good news for me, the thrifter xD Enjoy them while you can!
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